As reported on the US Debt Clock, America’s federal government passed the $31.8 trillion mark a few days ago. (One trillion has 12 zeroes behind it.) That breaks down to a debt of over $248,000 per US taxpayer and over $95,000 per US citizen, including children. As posted here, here and here, The Roanoke Star has been publishing news and commentary about this growing crisis.
The Media Research Center (MRC) has observed recent news coverage of the current debt crisis and reached this conclusion about media bias. “Out of 44 soundbites from anchors, reporters and a handful of nonpartisan sources, 21 blamed Republicans, 23 blamed both sides, and zero blamed Democrats.”
A US House of Representatives Resolution from May 2021, “Recognizing the national debt as a threat to national security,” lays out some of the dangers. The 2021 resolution claims, “the national debt was $28 trillion (…) the last balanced Federal budget was signed into law in 1997 (…) total public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product was 143.00 percent (…) and included total interest expense of more than $390,000,000,000 for fiscal year 2020.” Among the two Congressmen representing the western half of Virginia, Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA6) was a co-signatory of that resolution but Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) was not.
In recent weeks, the Federal Reserve, Biden Administration and others have warned the US is nearing its current debt ceiling and that Congress needs to raise it again, as it has been doing routinely for the past few decades. For several weeks, the deadline was claimed to be June 1, but in recent days it has been moved back to June 5.
Democrats have been calling for a “clean” debt ceiling, which they define as raising America’s indebtedness with no associated spending cuts. In contrast, the GOP has been calling for some cuts, including to defund the 87,000 new IRS agents the Democrats including Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have recently sought to hire, and a slower trajectory to the debt.
Under both parties’ plans, however, the debt continues to rise, only at different rates.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) unveiled a compromise he claimed he and the White House could accept. Reportedly, that measure will face a vote in the House tomorrow, May 31, and must pass the Senate too in order to get to the White House for the president’s signature.
With a wafer-thin GOP majority, McCarthy would need almost all Republicans to vote yes on the measure. However, some 31 conservatives have already signaled they will vote no. That number includes Rep. Bob Good (R), who represents the 5th District that covers Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and much of Central Virginia.
Good posted this to his Twitter page: “This debt ‘deal’ is bad for the country. It will increase our debt by at least 10% over 2 years without substantial reforms to our long-term fiscal situation—making an eventual default even more likely.”
McCarthy could conceivably pass the measure with Democrat votes, but that would risk angering his base.
McCarthy touted the deal as a big win for the GOP claiming the Democrats won very little. However, many conservatives are outraged at several aspects of the compromise. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), whose career had a humble start as a waitress at Waffle House, on May 30 tweeted several aspects she is opposed to.
“Washington is broken. Republicans got outsmarted by a President who can’t find his pants. I’m voting NO on the debt ceiling debacle because playing the DC game isn’t worth selling out our kids and grandkids.
“The bill doesn’t actually set a debt limit. Rather it suspends the debt limit entirely until Jan. 2, 2025 and there is no actual amount capping the debt ceiling.” [January 2025 is two months after the next election.]
“This ‘deal’ normalizes record high spending started during the pandemic. It sets these historically high spending levels as the baseline for all future spending. The bill then grows govt even more each year at about ~1%.
“63% of Americans want Congress to cut spending as part of a debt ceiling deal. This bill doesn’t do that. Unacceptable.”
The Roanoke Star reached out to the offices of Reps. Cline and Griffith, with these questions.
1. Do you have any statement of Yes or No, of how you will be voting for or against the debt ceiling compromise that Speaker McCarthy announced over the weekend?
2. Since the compromise actually has no debt ceiling for a few years, and keeps baseline spending at the inflated levels from the Covid years, what statement do you have for GOP voters who thought a GOP House majority would push for more fiscal responsibility? Similarly, do you have any statement for GOP voters who feel betrayed like Charlie Brown who keeps getting the football pulled away by Lucy again at the last second?
3. Based on Chairman McCarthy’s compromise, do you still support him as Speaker or will you support a “move to vacate” motion to find a new GOP Speaker of the House?
As of publication time, no responses have been received from either Congressmen. However, on May 27 Rep. Cline’s retweeted a post, seen below, from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, indicating that he opposes the current compromise.
“Reporting indicates we’re looking down the barrel of a debt ceiling increase more than double what we passed in the #LimitSaveGrowAct… While the critical policies to restore fiscal sanity and jumpstart economic growth appear immensely watered down. Unacceptable.”
Rep. Griffith’s Twitter page and recent emails have not indicated where he stands on the current compromise bill.
An old saying pokes fun at the backroom, convoluted ways that legislation is created: “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” One surprise buried in the new debt ceiling compromise involves the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project, designed to carry natural gas through West Virginia into the Southeast.
Supporters praise it as a way to get affordable, clean-burning reliable, US-produced fuel to consumers which in turn improves our energy security and reduces the cost of living. Opponents point to the environmental damage as it crosses streams and denudes mountain vistas. The project has long been mired in countless court fights and some detractors have gone so far as to chain themselves to trees in the construction pathway.
Buried in the text of the debt ceiling bill is approval for all the remaining permits to complete the stalled project. One politician poised to benefit from that loophole is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who just happens to currently be the most vulnerable Democrat senator facing re-election in 2024.
Completing the MVP is seen as key to Manchin’s popularity in the Mountain State, if he is to win re-election. However, that part of the bill is sure to draw ire from conservationists and fossil-fuel opponents, who generally lean Democrat.
However, just as the House has a narrow GOP majority, the Senate has a narrow Democrat majority, thus giving Sen. Manchin an outsized power in that body to get his way.
Although he does not have a vote on the federal debt bill, State Delegate Salam “Sam” Rasoul (D-Roanoke City) shared his anger against the MVP go-ahead. In a public statement he wrote that he is, “disappointed by the unchecked approval of all remaining permits that is included in the Fiscal Responsibility Act by Senator Joe Manchin following the debt ceiling negotiations. As a result of the proposed deal, the Mountain Valley Pipeline will be given the green-light to continue construction against the wishes of the thousands of property owners along the pipeline’s path and the hundreds of thousands who rely on impacted water sources (….).
Update 5-31-23: A staffer in Rep. Cline’s Roanoke field office said by telephone that Cline will vote no on the proposed compromise bill.
Correction 6-3-23: The original text of this story said the current US debt was past $3.8 trillion. That was vastly incorrect. The correct figure is over $31.8 trillion. The Roanoke Star regrets the error.